6 Strategies to Improve Team Cohesion
Protex Sports contributing expert Jeff Janssen discusses six team-building strategies to developing a more cohesive team. Team Cohesion is the glue that binds your team together to help them rise to greatness. Team activities are a way to help your team get to know each other as well as bond.
Cohesion, while not absolutely mandatory for winning a championship, helps your team rise to even greater levels because it gives your players another compelling reason for which to play – each other. Cohesion within your team enhances communication, minimizes conflict and provides you with an extra edge of motivation and commitment, all because your players respect each other.
Further, a cohesive team makes your season much more enjoyable for both you and your players. While you hope to perform to your potential and possibly win a championship, reality says there are going to be several teams who will not win their last game. Even if your team falls short of its ultimate goal, the experience and memories of your season will be greatly improved through the benefits of greater cohesion.
The following strategies suggest a variety of ways to build a sense of fun and family with your team. As you read each one, think about how and when you might be able to use or adapt the suggestion with your team.
1. People Bingo: Use this activity to help your players get to know each other and break the ice at one of your initial team meetings. Sometime before the meeting, have your players list something few people know about them. Arrange these little known player facts on a grid much like a bingo card. Then when your players get together hand them all a bingo card. Tell them to go around and individually talk with their teammates to find out more about them. They should then put the initials of the person associated with each personal fact in the appropriate square until they have so many initials in a row or have filled their card.
2. Team Scavenger Hunt: In an effort to help players get to know each other early in the season, the Arizona Soccer coaching staff typically creates a campus scavenger hunt for their team. They break the team up into groups of five and give them a camera and a list of things they need to do or find. The team then figures out how to best accomplish the mission and end up learning a lot about the campus and each other.
3. Team Activities: Team activities are a way to help your team get to know each other as well as bond. Many teams that I have worked with will have team dinners, go on a team hike, go to the movies together or play Frisbee football. The idea is to do something fun away from your sport. Six-time National Champion University of Tennessee women’s basketball Coach Pat Summitt likes to host pot luck dinners for team building where each player is responsible for bringing a different dish. The underlying message is that if everyone takes responsibility to contribute something, the whole team benefits.
4. Support Squad: The support squad provides your team with a variety of benefits including setting goals for quality practices, establishing accountability and helping your players get to know each other better. At the beginning of the week, pair up your players with one another. Have the pair discuss and write down their goals for the upcoming week. Also, have them discuss any obstacles or difficulties they could face in achieving their goals. They should then plan some ways to overcome these obstacles as well as how their partner might assist them.
The partners then serve as a reminder and supporter of their goals. Not only is each player focused on achieving a goal for the week, but they are also held accountable by a teammate who is there to support and challenge them. At the end of the week, have the partners evaluate each other’s progress. Change partners for each subsequent week throughout the season.
Your players will eventually be paired with a majority if not all of their teammates at some time during the season. They will have a week to get to know each player as well as the typical challenges that they may face. More importantly, they will be able to assist their teammate in refocusing them should these obstacles arise throughout the season, especially in competition.
5. I Got Your Back: Hand each of your players a sheet of paper. Instruct them to write their name at the top of the paper followed by the word “Strengths.” Put a piece of tape at the top of the paper and have your players tape it to their backs. Then have them go around and write in the strengths they see in their teammates. When they are finished, have them read what their teammates have said about them.
6. Family Picture Album: This idea comes from Pat Summitt’s excellent book, Reach for the Summit. Have your players bring in pictures of their family to show to their teammates. Allow each player a few minutes to talk about their family members and their relationships with them. The exercise can be an emotional one because many players disclose how much certain people mean to them. This kind of open sharing can do a lot to bring a team together.
The time you invest in building a cohesive team will pay off immeasurably. Greater cohesiveness will not only help your team perform more effectively on the field, but it will help your players develop lasting and life-long friendships off the field.
This article is excerpted from Jeff’s book, “Championship Team Building: What Every Coach Needs to Know to Build a Motivated, Committed & Cohesive Team.” To order a copy of the book visit http://www.jeffjanssen.com/coaching/resources.html or call toll free 1-888-721-TEAM.